Eighteen days in power and the romance hasn’t worn off. The stream of volunteers and membership-seekers, whose bright-eyed expectations carry the same excitement of young lovers on their first date, fills the offices of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Volunteers, barely out of college, attend to calls of lawyers, teachers, executives nominating themselves, seeking a Lok Sabha ticket from the AAP.
But it’s time for AAP to convert its poetry of politics to prose of governance.
Last week, the party’s first Janata Durbar at the Delhi secretariat, where AAP founder and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, along with his ministers, organised a meet with citizens to conduct grievance redressals, became a victim of its own success. Instead of the 500 people they expected, a guesstimated 20,000 people landed up, their complaints in tow, the long sheets of paper attesting to a governance failure by the previous government, and a blind faith in their eyes that they will get redress.
Fears of what would have happened if the crowd had turned into a stampede, compounded by the possible recognition that using the tools of expressing outrage and protests may not work while handling governance, has led to the end of those durbars. Now, grievances would be handled by technology, Kejriwal said.
The poetry of AAP’s politics has had other casualties too and the list is going to increase. This is not because India’s youngest party has a bag of dark secrets, waiting to be exposed. The moral fibre is strong, the people behind seem fairly incorruptible. But standing on the plank of clean politics is at best an infatuation, a dream, a star-in-the-eyes wonder for an electorate exhausted with corruption. But when you come to the grind of governance, poetry as a medium of political discourse fails.
“Those who participate in these movements, with a pure heart, with a dream-like quality, will be disillusioned if they don’t understand that politics is not just about dreams, and romance,” said political scientist Ashutosh Varshney, as we discussed, threadbare, the amazing rise of the AAP over his latest book, Battles Half Won. “Politics as romance enlivens a polity, it brings new energy forth into mainstream politics and that’s what’s beginning to happen with AAP. It challenges the conventional ways of doing politics and political work.”
But, he warns, it could equally lead to an early disillusionment. “All of this will now have to be accompanied and joined with the prose of governance. Governance is not romance. The prose of governance has to appear very soon and I do think they’re working on their prose. Let’s see what kind of prose appears finally from this poetry.”
The Sol Goldman professor of international studies and the social sciences at Brown University is catching the first signs of what’s happening on the ground. About 500 metres away from AAP’s Hanuman Road office, I sit with Asif Rameez Daudi, a lecturer in English at the Jubail University in Saudi Arabia, at a Barista outlet. “Hopes that Arvind Kejriwal will fulfil all expectations are very high. If fulfilment does not happen, there will be disappointment.”
AAP may have another week or two of fun and games, fumbling and falling. The poetry is singing its song in full and inspiring glory and the music is still fresh. The infatuation with ideas has been thrilling, the wooing of the electorate complete. But now that the garlands have been exchanged, AAP needs to get down to the unglamorous grunt work, the prose of governance - and that needs time, a scarce commodity for political entrepreneurs looking at general elections in three months.
It is not as if the party doesn’t recognise the urgency or the import of delivering this prose. “Time is a very serious limitation for us to prepare for the Lok Sabha polls,” AAP ideologue and leader Yogendra Yadav told CNN-IBN last week. “In Delhi too, we are a small organisation but people helped us go forward. I wish the Lok Sabha polls were being held in 2015.”
Without the luxury of time, flying on the political wings of the Congress that can be withdrawn any moment, unprepared for on-ground actions that need at least a hint of experience for success, the AAP has its task cut out. For a party that has disrupted the politics of India and is audaciously influencing the actions of the Congress and the BJP, it would be a pity if their poetry of politics isn’t strengthened with the prose of governance.
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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2014 19:52:33 IST